Loved by the Marginalized

I picked up The Nanny Diaries a while back because I’d heard it was pretty good and written by graduates of my own little nontraditional college. It details the somewhat fictional experiences of a student named Nan who works as a nanny for presumably some of the worst people ever, or at least some of the saddest.

Slowly the student’s life becomes a living hell, completely controlled by her employer and void of boundaries. But even as the job spirals downward, Nan falls deeper in love with the jolly little kid whose life is also determined by his parents’ whims. They bond over outings, lessons, and games, and over their mutual entrapment in the sins of the boy’s family.

The book is humorous, but the story happens every day to nannies young and old who, sometimes leaving their own children behind in their home country, make a living by stepping into the role of Parent for their employers’ child.

How much more difficult when the job is not by choice?

Enslavement of domestic workers in the United States means children are being raised by women whose papers have been confiscated, who have been threatened and manipulated, and who are trafficked into their roles by criminals.

It is easy to presume that women in such a situation would become very bitter and serve as terrible guardians. But victims of forced domestic labor instead feel deep attachment to the children they raise. Survivors attest to a commonality with the children, a bond of loneliness that keeps them closely knit.

In fact, their love can become so strong that they choose not to leave even when they get the opportunity because they don’t want to abandon the child. In many cases, when a slave does escape, she feels a form of survivor’s guilt for leaving the child behind.

Because many of the slaves used as domestic workers are also illegal immigrants, it is very rare for them to turn in their oppressors, let alone testify. They fear deportation, or worse: they know that the family has a good chance of being believed in court, and as retaliation they could easily be framed for something they did not do.

Sadly, that means it is sometimes easier for a slave to escape cruelty and abuse than it is for the child who will have to live with that family for the rest of his or her life.

Surely there is a better way.

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